2007 National Poetry Slam Individual Finals

Luv Doc Writings, The Luv Doc Recommends

AUGUST 6, 2007

So how did slam poetry begin and where do we have to travel back in time to kill the evil bastard who started it? Questions like these invariably pop into your head when watching slam poetry. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself the victim of some unconscionably self-absorbed free verse soliloquy being performed forte voce by some wildly gesticulating, overly emotional word nerd, and your mind will wander to the hypothetical. Couldn’t all that mental detritus have been attractively assembled on a crisp piece of stationary? Or maybe a creepy looking website with flashing candy-colored fonts, sparkly unicorns, fluffy kittens, and a MIDI file of Ludwig van’s “Ode to Joy” playing in the background? Shouldn’t there be some message inherent in the actual text, some universal truth that needs no further embellishment, or is 90% of all poetic communication nonverbal? Why slam poetry anyway? Isn’t poetry enough? Can one just be a poet who reads his or her work in an overly animated fashion? Admittedly, “slam poetry” does sound cooler than simple, unadorned “poetry.” Maybe slam poets simply refuse to own up to the inherent dorkiness of poetry. There’s no shame in your game (poetry?) if you want to read what you’ve written (versed or un) to an audience, but it’s dorky. Dorky like playing the tuba, scrapbooking, or putting money down on a condo in Second Life. Own it. Just because you bust a sag, furrow your brow, flail around and read with the Tourette’s-like rhythm of William Shatner on PCP doesn’t make you any cooler than say, Robert Frost reading “Birches” in his deadpan New England drone. Adding “slam” to the word “poetry” is the type of spin-marketing mentality that gives us phrases like “extreme sports,” “green living,” and “power yoga.” which are basically flashy antecedents for simple-minded chumps – sort of like when a cop comes in to do an anti-drug rap performance for middle school students: Only the knuckle-draggers and nose-pickers get on board. Everybody else just wonders why the cop thinks they’re stupid. So it’s hard to decide which is dorkier: The Scrapbooker or the Extreme Scrapbooker, but the point is, who cares? If you want to play tuba, play tuba. You don’t need to play extreme tuba or power tuba or slam tuba. If you wanted to be cool you would have learned guitar, and all of the really great guitarists are dorks anyway. In fact, anyone who does anything even remotely interesting is probably a dork of some kind – someone who has committed to a pursuit without regard for what other people think. That kind of courage and focus is something to be celebrated. It doesn’t need to be spun. So, should you go see the 2007 National Poetry Slam Individual Finals this Friday at the Paramount? Hells fucking yes. It’s the National Finals, and these are some of the best poets in the country. You can assume they’ve perfected their craft both on paper and in performance. After all, in the words of the Bard (that’s old-timey talk for “slam poet”), “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

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